It’s been perfect autumn weather here in Connecticut: crisp temperatures, bright leaves, blue skies. (And the occasional soft rainy day, too!) Autumn marks the return of cozy blankets and warm cups of tea, of snuggling up to the dog to read a good tale. Here are some of my favorites from the past months…
Recent Reads: Gods, godlings, immortals.
Kelly Robson’s latest novella High Times in the Low Parliament is an absolute delight, and so beautifully written that every page is a gift. And 10/10 for amazing world-building! Robson’s England is a female-centric (as in, men do not exist at all) psychedelic wonderland, where magic and the mundane coexist side-by-side and fairy folk are considered minor deities, almost god-like in their reach.
Pitched by the author as ‘A lesbian stoner buddy comedy with fairies — about Brexit!’, this is a light-hearted romp through a version of 18th-century England. Flirtatious scribe Lana Baker is sent to work at the low Parliament, where delegates are trying to avoid a hung vote. Failure will bring a devastating flood and a return to endless war, unless Lana and her new friends, the grumpy fairy Bugbite and the enchanting delegate Eloquentia, can work together to save humanity. The perfect book for when you need something bright, happy, and just a little ridiculous — in the best sort of way!
While we’re on the subject of divinity and floodwater, I’ve just finished No Gods for Drowning by Hailey Piper, a recent release. There’s nothing lighthearted about the grim world Piper presents to us, awash in blood, violence, and the promise of death. The old gods have fled the land of Aeg, and the monsters they had kept at bay for centuries now threaten to drown the city-states and hunt down mankind. The different threads become hopelessly entangled: a ritual serial killer seeking to bring back a god to save the land; a detective duo racing to catch the killer while the city of Valentine falls apart around them; and an evacuation officer blessed by the divine. But can they solve an ancient mystery that holds the key to the gods themselves before the sea takes them all?
Part dark fantasy, part detective noir, Piper serves up a wonderful cast of characters who fit together like jagged, broken jigsaw pieces and yet somehow manage to complete each other perfectly. The worldbuilding is really interesting, too, with religion as the frame for a rich tapestry that incorporates culture, legislation, and the judiciary in a way that make a terrible sort of sense in this world the author has woven. Piper’s gods are vicious and primal beings, blood-drenched and alien, and the humans that revere them are almost as savage in their beliefs as the deities themselves. A dark but gripping read.
Nona the Ninth is the third installment in the fabulous Locked Tomb space-fantasy series by Tamsyn Muir. Overflowing with in-jokes for readers and flashes of contemporary memes and pop culture, Nona may be the funniest book in the series — quite the accomplishment as it’s set in a world that manages to be both pre- and post-apocalyptic at the same time and is the literal epitome of a dumpster fire. However, this is Muir’s talent: to deliver immensely joyful scenes and dialogue against what is, quite frankly, an absolutely horrifying backdrop.
Nona brings us familiar names and faces — Camilla, Palamedes, Pyrrha — and the enigma that is Nona herself. Nona woke up six months ago with a fractured mind and a stranger’s body, navigating a city that is falling apart with child-like wonder. Blood of Eden want Nona to be their ultimate weapon. Nona would rather go to school, hang out with her friends, pet dogs, and spend time with her completely dysfunctional family who she loves beyond all reason. Nona is a brilliant character; a main point-of-view who has no idea what’s going on, when everyone else (including the reader!) knows more than she does. It’s a great addition to the series, and I think my favorite so far.
My last pick for this month is The Old Guard graphic novel series. I watched the movie adaptation and really enjoyed it, so I figured it was time to check out the source material. There are three volumes currently out. The first, Opening Fire, covers pretty much the entire movie (I was pleased to see how closely the script keeps to the graphic novel!), and introduces the characters and world. The second, Force Multiplied, continues the story, and the third, Tales Through Time, is what it says on the tin: a compilation of one-shots from each of the characters’ pasts.
The premise of The Old Guard is that every few hundred years or so, a new warrior is cursed with immortality upon death. There’s no scientific or spiritual explanation. It’s not transferrable, it’s not predictable. Drawn to each other, these immortal soldiers form a family of sorts, plying their trade sometimes for money, sometimes for a cause. But in the 21stcentury, staying off the radar is increasingly difficult, and some fates are indeed worse than death. The worldbuilding is very good throughout this series, but the cast of characters is the winner here, with some absolutely stunning creations. These are not superheroes. They’re very much morally grey. We’re constantly reminded that, despite being virtually unkillable, they are still human, and fallible. (I love them all.) And the series allows for some interesting discussion on the effects of immortality. I thoroughly enjoyed the books, and I’m looking forward to the second movie adaptation!
Now Reading: An end to a dream?
I’ve loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle since I first found The Raven Boys, many years ago. Greywaren is the final book in the sequel trilogy, following the Lynch boys in the months after Ronan graduates from high school and delving deeper into Dreamer lore.
I think my favorite thing in the Dreamer Trilogy has been the chance to get to know Declan, the oldest Lynch brother. In the original series, we only meet Declan through the eyes of his brother and his friends, but in this trilogy, he’s allowed to blossom. Ronan was always my favorite character in The Raven Cycle, but now, in the sequels, Declan definitely brings stiff competition. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but already stuck in ‘last book dilemma’: I need to read! But also, I’m already mourning the end of the dream…
To Read: Quests and mysteries.
I have two books sitting in my to-read pile. The first is Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon. This sounds like the best sort of fairytale: a younger daughter sets off on a quest to save her sister and rid the kingdom of an abusive ruler, facing impossible tasks with a motley crew of adventurers (including a demon chicken!). Or, according to the publisher’s website: “This isn’t the kind of fairytale where the princess marries a prince. It’s the one where she kills him.”
The other one I have waiting for me is Mur Lafferty’s Station Eternity, the first of a brand-new series called The Midsolar Murders. Take the classic murder mystery format. Set it loose on a space station. Voilà! Mallory Viridian just can’t seem to stop getting involved in murder cases, even in space. Now she’s stuck in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and she has to solve the crime before the list of victims grows… I do love a good murder mystery, and I can’t wait to get started on this one!
Here’s to lots of good books ahead to get us through the last months of 2022! Happy reading!